On December 12th, 2016, I became a father again. Or, rather, I had been a father already but I got to meet my daughter, Tempest Jane, face to face. As I write this newsletter article from home, I’m looking over my laptop screen and watching her wake up from a nap. Sitting on the couch with me is my mother who came down to help with the new baby. And this past Sunday we confessed the Fourth Commandment together.
What is the fourth commandment?
Honor your father and your mother.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.
I’m glad that she heard that commandment on her first Sunday worshiping with us outside of the womb. I am glad I heard it too.
The thing about this commandment that strikes me differently now that I’m a parent is the word “honor”. I was raised with this commandment. I knew that it wasn’t just my parents that wanted me to honor them, but that it was God who wanted me to honor them. But now that I’m a parent, that word “honor” brings new reflections. As a father, I am called not only to honor the woman who is sitting on the couch with me (my mother), but I am also called to be honor-ABLE for my daughters. I don’t want to make it difficult for them to follow this commandment. I don’t want to make it easy for them to break this commandment. God wants my daughters to honor me, and my role in that is to be honorable — because that is what He wants for them.
I will fail in this calling, just as my daughters will fail. They will fail to honor me and their mother. Their mother and I will fail to be honorable. Hopefully we will also succeed. With God’s help, we may even succeed more than we fail. But we will fail. And that failure will bring us back to our Father.
One of the best parenting books I’ve read is called “Being Dad: Father as Picture of God’s Grace” (if you still haven’t gotten your dad a gift, I recommend this – even if you’ve been out of the house for a while). The premise of the book is simple: parents, specifically fathers, are called to be honorable. The specific honor we are called to is the honor of standing in the shadow of our Father, and what does our Father do? He forgives. He shows grace.
Even when I fail, His honor remains. He forgives me, renews me, and leads me. A Father like that isn’t hard to honor. My prayer is that I stand in that Father’s shadow for my children, and that they someday stand in that shadow for theirs.